Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"Bland Power"

Donald Trump has style.

It’s the style of a megalomaniacal wrecking ball, but it’s style.

I know there’s a pendulum.  If we survive this presidency the next candidate – or possibly both candidates – will, in reaction to this historical train wreck, run in the direction of competence, experience and rational thinking.  That’s how “Style” works.  It’s a reaction to whatever went before.

After biblically wide ties (not emanating from the Bible but comparable to bibs) or super-skimpy micro-miniskirts, the “Style” trajectory swings inevitably back; otherwise, you are evolving towards “No skirts at all” – just a blouse and a belt.

In the universe of “Style” there are only two trajectories you can travel – East to West, or West to East.  Wherever things currently stand – and, politically they currently stands at “Don’t touch that; it’s dangerous”, the trend inexorably works its way back.  There are no “3-Dimensional ties.” 

“I’m tired of ‘wide ties’ and ‘narrow ties’.  The next ties are going to go ‘out.’”

(I know.  Someone’s going to tell me they have those already.  But at least so far, they have not seriously caught on.  Not that I’d know.  The only people wearing ties in Los Angeles are undertakers.  And they wouldn’t dare to go “3-D”.)

The thing is (or at least the thing for today is)…

Though the specifics may change, the idea of “Style” itself never seems to get old.

Or is diminished in its importance.

I confronted that concern a few weeks ago when they announced who made it into into baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and who didn’t.  I considered it again when I watched a show on C-SPAN, in which a group of recognized historians ranked the presidents of the United States.

(That’s another thing that never seems to get old – competition.)

I wondered in this context… without doing anything about it… I just thought about it… because that’s what I do… which some might perceive as a useless undertaking, considered just slightly above “napping”… but it’s something.

Here’s me, doing nothing except thinking about things.  (Because if you don’t do anything, that’s the only tool in your arsenal.)

I imagine myself included in a gathering of experts on the Major League Baseball Channel, convened to discuss the latest Hall of Fame induction announcement.  Sitting quietly, patiently awaiting my turn – the established protocol in my fantasy being “Experts first and then me at the end” – where I ask the most penetrating question… but that’s subjective – I finally find my voice in this imaginatorial fantasy and I ask this:

“How much does personal ‘style’ affect their Hall of Fame consideration?”

Coming to mind in this regard were the irrepressible Ozzie Smith (Nickname: “The Wizard of Oz”) known for doing backflips when he went out to his position and was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first year of his eligibility versus the gifted but workmanlike Alan Trammel (Nickname: “Tram”) who excelled an equal number of seasons (19) and was a superior hitter to Smith (as well as a strong albeit less spectacular fielder) but who has been denied entry into the Hall of Fame after fifteen years of eligibility.

The “Wizard of Oz” versus “Tram.”  (The flashy equivalent to the “Jones” nickname “Jonesy.”)  Does their comparative flamboyance have anything at all to do, I wondered, with their contrasting outcomes relative to Hall of Fame consideration?

So there’s that.

Shortly thereafter, I imagined myself doing a live “call-in” on C-SPAN, addressing the gathered historians, debating the most recent presidential hierarchical assessment, and, after congratulating them on a wonderful program, I say this:

“I am reading a book about President McKinley who, the author argues, based on his accomplishments in office, has been egregiously underrated.  Do you think his inferior ranking relates in any way to his more pedestrian personality, as compared to the “Top Ten”-voted, flashier JFK, Ronald Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt?”

(I am so articulate when I fantasize, aren’t I?  I mean, it’s my fantasy.  I could go on and on.  But I don’t, knowing there are other callers and limited time.) 

So there you have it – “dull” versus “flamboyant.”  Salieri – no; Mozart – yes.  “Crotchety” versus “amenable”:  Adams – no; Jefferson – yes. 

Plug in any arena you want – the Oscars, for example.  Does the award always go to the “Best Performance”?  Or does it go, especially in neck-and-neck competitions, to the more likable actor?

And where does that put me?  (A consideration rarely absent from my consciousness.)

My reputation – for those who care to evaluate it – is as a reliable workhorse – dozens of TV scripts, more than 2300 blog posts – steady but not spectacular.  Okay, occasionally spectacular, but known more for my consistency – respected but no skyrockets.  I’m used to that.  Within my own family, between me and my brother, in our primes, I was unquestionably the Alan Trammell of the operation.

Making this – once again – a self-serving investigation.  (Though hopefully not entirely uninteresting to others.)  The issue in question:  Which characteristic is ultimately more important?

I know you need a little of each.  But really.  When you get down to it, shouldn’t “Substance” be weighted more substantially than “Style”? 

You think, “Yeah”?

Then why isn’t it?


Wendy M. Grossman said...

I guess you've now explained the inexplicable: leggings. The skirt length pendulum broke and they kept going to leggings and big shirts (in the 1990s) and leggings, waist-length shirts, and Ugg boots (now).


JED said...

Salieri wallowed in his jealousy instead of enjoying the wonder of Mozart. Adams did get to be President, had a terrific wife and his son did pretty well, too. Did Jefferson get a beer named after him?

But, one of the big lessons I had to learn as a quiet, introverted engineer was that you need to explain what you're doing to others and you need to be excited about it or no one else will be excited by it. There are too many ideas out there for your bosses to explore every one. But just making a big show of it and not having anything of substance gets old very quickly.

VP81955 said...

I suppose had you been a ballplayer, you would've been Hank Aaron -- a quietly efficient top-tier star for a decade and a half, a splendid hitter, fielder and baserunner, but always overshadowed by Mays, Mantle (in the other league) and then Clemente. Not until he drew close to Babe Ruth's career home run record (and Aaron, while a sensational player, never had a 50-HR season) was Hank finally appreciated.